What does a red weather warning mean? How the met office alert will affect you

·3-min read

As the UK braces for summer temperatures approaching 40C, the Met Office has issued its first ever red warning for large parts of England on Monday and Tuesday, cautioning the public that the heat is likely to be so severe that it could cause “serious illness or danger to life”.

The UK Health Security Agency has likewise declared a Level 4 national emergency, its equivalent notification, warning that the high temperatures could mean “illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy”.

Britain’s transport infrastructure, health service, utilities and supply sector could all be impacted as a consequence of the sweltering conditions, which threaten to melt tarmac, cause railway tracks to buckle or warp and leave reservoirs running low.

“We’ve just issued a red warning for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday which is the first such warning ever issued,” said Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge, explaining its move.

“The warning covers an area from London up to Manchester and then up to the Vale of York. This is potentially a very serious situation."

Paul Gundersen, the institution’s chief meteorologist elaborated: “Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking temperatures are likely early next week, quite widely across the red warning area on Monday, and focused a little more east and north on Tuesday.

“Currently there is a 50 per cent chance we could see temperatures top 40C and 80 per cent we will see a new maximum temperature reached.

“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure. Therefore, it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”

The red warning is published in full on the Met Office UK’s weather warnings dashboard, which forecasts: “An exceptional hot spell on Monday and Tuesday leading to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure.”

The Met Office warns Britons to expect:

  • Population-wide adverse health effects experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life. Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.

  • Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required

  • High risk of failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localised loss of power and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services

  • Significantly more people visiting coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents

  • Delays on roads and road closures, along with delays and cancellations to rail and air travel, with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays

Some schools in England have already indicated they will close on Monday and possibly if the weather threatens to put too great a strain on pupils and threaten their wellbeing.

Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, have meanwhile been warned to take care, stay in the shade and drink plenty of water.

If temperatures were to pass 40C, it would beat the current record for this country, which stands at 38.7C and was recorded at Cambridge Botanic Garden on 25 July in 2019.